Orange County’s homeless population increases 40 percent from last year


As the coronavirus pandemic continues, the impact on the homeless is increasing. With the federal moratorium on evictions due to end on October 3, the number of homeless people in Orange County is expected to rise.

Rachel Waltz, Orange County Homelessness Programs Coordinator, said the increase in the number of people living in shelters and homelessness in Orange County was alarming. She said that in January 2021 the number was 176, a 40% increase from the previous year.

“We know these numbers will continue to rise, as homelessness is generally seen as a lagging indicator during an economic downturn as people will do whatever and everything they can to stay in their homes,” Waltz said. .

Although the COVID-19 pandemic has had an impact on the number of people in the homeless system, it is not the only cause. Waltz said residents of Orange County are having difficulty accessing shelter due to a variety of factors.

“There is no overnight shelter in Orange County – they have to operate from a transitional housing model,” Waltz said. “Additionally, we know that there is not enough rapid rehousing which is an evidence-based program that combines with short-term case management financial support for people who are homeless.”

Another gap in reducing the number of people facing housing insecurity, according to Waltz, is the lack of permanent supportive housing. This is housing for chronically homeless people – people who have been homeless for more than a year or four times in the past three years. She said chronic homelessness has also increased over the past year.

“We have more people coming into the homeless system and when they come into the homeless system, they stay homeless a lot longer,” Waltz said.

Corey Root, director of Orange County Housing and Community Development, said these gaps in the homeless system have been around for some time.

“[COVID-19] really pissed them off, ”Root said. “And really exasperated them for the most vulnerable of the most vulnerable. This is what is really alarming and what really worries us incredibly.

Root said the number of people experiencing housing insecurity will not decrease until barriers to accessible housing are removed.

“We need to have more short-term programs and rental assistance. We also need units that people can move into.

According to Root, more than 160 households in Orange County are connected to service providers looking for permanent housing. While many are willing to pay, Root said there just weren’t enough units available.

Housing Help Line Phone: 919-245-2655

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